Much-ridiculed design for Lucas Museum is changing

SHARE Much-ridiculed design for Lucas Museum is changing
SHARE Much-ridiculed design for Lucas Museum is changing

The much-ridiculed, futuristic design of the interactive museum that movie mogul George Lucas plans to build on 17 acres of free lakefront land has been re-done, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday, without saying how.

“They’re working through an interactive process with the community. But it will stay true to my goals for any cultural, educational or anything we’re working on in parks that it will be open, accessible and green,” Emanuel told reporters at an unrelated event at the Woodson Regional Library.

“There’ll be a lot of green space. And I believe the Lucas Museum — in combination with all of the other museums plus Northerly Island, which is 50 acres of nature preserve — will be really open, accessible and green.”

Emanuel refused to talk about what needed to be changed about the original design. Instead, he portrayed the alterations as a normal part of the process of going from a conceptual design to a final plan.

“It’s not so much change. That’s not how I look at it. . . . When we did the river walk — the original until when it ended — it goes through an iterative process. You re-think things and do things” differently, he said.

“Right now, you have a parking lot. The goal is to have a big, green space that contributes to the open space and also is focused on its mission of education. As they work through that, that’s going to happen,” he said.

Last fall, Chinese architect Ma Yansong unveiled a conceptual design of a flowing white sculptural building topped by a Saturn-like floating ring of an observation deck. He called it a “new type of architecture for the world.”

Most of Chicago’s movers and shakers strongly disagreed.

They likened Ma’s design to a palace for Jabba the Hutt, an amorphous, land-eating colossus; the Jetsons on the lakefront; and close encounters of the fourth or fifth kind.

Emanuel tried his best to be diplomatic while sending the architect back to the drawing board.

“It is bold. I think we can say that,” Emanuel said then.

“These are conceptual and it’s part of an overall process. . . . There’s a lot of architects [who] like it. Other people have expressed their view. But this is the beginning of that iterative process,” he said at the time.

In between the lines, Emanuel was saying there would be changes.

Butbecause the Lucas museum and a bridge to Northerly Island would be privately financed — with the exception of transportation improvements bankrolled by the city and 17 acres of free lakefront land — the design controversy needed to be handled delicately and diplomatically without offending Lucas or his hand-picked architect.

On Monday, Emanuel was asked whether he considered Ma’s original design ugly.

“No. . . . It’s a bold museum. It’s a statement. It’s true to Chicago’s history on architecture of making bold statements,” he said. “And I’m gonna stay true — which is also true of the [new] design that they’re looking — that it stays open, it stays accessible and it stays green.”

Pressed on what he asked the Chinese architect to change about the design, he said, “I didn’t ask anything. It’s an interactive process of doing it with the community. It’s not me at all.”

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